Finding oneself on Easter Island

Travel Destinations, Travel Writers & Books — By on October 17, 2007 at 7:49 am

Some of the better travel writing on the internet can be found in the Dispatches section of World Hum. The site’s most recent story has Catherine Watson writing about a period of time that she spent on Easter Island. An excerpt:

By the time I got to the South Pacific, I was in my early 30s, and I’d been looking for home all my life, for the place I really belonged, the place where I should have been born. I felt I’d found it on Easter Island the instant I stepped off the plane. It was as if the island had been waiting for me, all that time, the way I’d been waiting for the island…

I began to exist in the present tense, as if I had no past regrets and no future fears. It was something I’d never done before. That, and the incredible distances surrounding us, lent me an exhilarating freedom. I likened it to hiding in a childhood tree fort with the rope pulled up. No one knows where I am, I kept thinking. No one can find me.

My days quickly fell into their own gentle rhythm: Go out walking after breakfast. Explore a cave, a volcano, a vista. Take pictures. Talk to people. Go home for lunch. Nap or write or poke around Hanga Roa. And in the late afternoon, walk over to Tahai, the row of giant statues, called moai, that stood closest to town, and watch the sunset paint the sky in the direction of Tahiti…

From the beginning, Yolanda had been urging me to stay longer. I’d only planned on a week, but as plane day got closer and she kept talking, I weakened. Yolanda was right, I decided. There was really no reason to leave so soon. The only thing waiting for me was a small internship on a newspaper in Buenos Aires, and the start date was more than a month away. Besides, there was no penalty for changing my reservation. What harm could it do to wait?

I missed one plane. And then another. And another.

And while I waited, my newly simple life grew complicated. I was enmeshed in a love affair, all right, but it wasn’t exactly with the man I’d met. It was with Easter Island itself. My island.

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